Week In Review
A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
November 2, 2008
If the Phillies Can Win the World
Can the Democrats shake off their well earned loser reputation on Tuesday? Senator Obama not only has big-time support of virtually every union and social movement group–and many readers of this column, I’m sure. He also has the endorsement of the world’s richest man and Bush’s former Secretary of State–who covered his old boss’s back during the launching of both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Obama has in addition, after declining campaign finance “reform” limits he once embraced, raised about 400 million dollars more than his main opponent, on track to spending nearly a billion. While honest elections are never a sure thing a McCain victory would be on a par with baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays remarkable last to first achievement–which cost the book in Las Vegas a bundle.
There has been surprisingly little media attention given to the now likely historic milestone of electing an African-American to the highest office in the land. Certainly there has been a subterranean effort to foment racism against the Democrat, and more visible moves to mislabel Obama as a Muslim, or even an Arab, to play on post-9/11 bigotry against those groups. But there is no force resembling George Wallace, who openly appealed to skin color prejudice in a “white backlash” against the civil rights movement, siphoning off enough votes from Hubert Humphrey in 1968 to assure a Nixon victory. In that respect some progress has been made.
But a growing number of Black elected officials, and high profile African-American appointments to judicial and cabinet positions, does not indicate a decline in racism. Black America has never had a fair shake during prosperity and is being hit hardest of all by the economic crisis and destruction of unionized jobs. Obama has not said much about this part of the crisis in his campaign, instead emphasizing he is a “uniter.”
McClatchy’s Steven Thomma glowingly writes today,
“As they do perhaps once in a generation — 1932, 1968 and 1980 — Americans this week will choose a new president and chart a new course in a time of economic turmoil, social upheaval and great anxiety.”
With similar hype, many progressives are dreaming out loud about historic accomplishments during the First Hundred Days of an Obama White House. Even the less intoxicated are prepared to cut the new President a lot of slack during an extended “honeymoon.” Obama, welcoming this “righteous wind,” has nevertheless cautioned it might take a “thousand days” before his bold program for change starts to have an effect.
Thomma cites an authority,
“This is the worst crisis of confidence in our institutions since 1932,” said pollster John Zogby. “The numbers are worse than Watergate, worse than the malaise period of the late 1970s.”
Pollster Zogby thinks the pulse of the people shows a pragmatic sentiment,
“Americans are looking for a consensus builder and a problem solver. The top things they're looking for are a problem solver, a competent manager, a commander in chief and strong personal values. None of them are ideological. The bottom line is to fix things: The government. The economy. The country.”
If this assertion about the mood of the public is accurate they will be as cruelly disappointed as the progressive dreamers.
While managerial incompetence in both government and business is palpable this is not the crux of the failure of institutions. The fundamental problem lies with an economic/political system based on the dominance of a relatively small class over the great majority. The next President will be seeking to build a consensus among this ruling class to maintain their continued ascendency over the rest of us during the crises ahead.
Abraham Lincoln, who won a transformational election of his own, recognized class divisions early on,
“These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people.”
Whether “Change We Need” or “Country First” prevails in the Electoral College, whether of not sixty donkeys are in the next Senate, I am prepared to make some bold predictions about life after inauguration:
* The Bush Doctrine will survive without Bush in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and maybe some new places. The unconscionable embargo and travel ban on Cuba will remain and so will the pressures on regimes in Venezuela, Bolivia, and anywhere else perceived to be a threat to global capital’s domination in this hemisphere.
* The economic crisis for American workers will deepen.
* Our healthcare will still be held hostage by the health insurance robber barons.
* Working class kids will be priced out of higher education.
* And greenhouse gas emissions will climb.
I don’t think an arranged marriage deserves a honeymoon. We should resist the seductive siren call for the workers to meet up with the bosses, for the environmentalists to clasp hands with the polluters, to pull the country together “again.” The late UE leader Red Block was fond of saying,
“After the lion and the lamb lie down together it’s the lion who gets up and burps.”
Precious time, human energy, and material resources have been wasted on the debilitating diversion of this election. Our class is taking a beating and we can not afford further temporizing with the enemy. It’s high time we proudly reclaim our working class identity and advance the interests of Us against Them in the workplace, through street heat, and by building a party of our own. Let’s shift our attention to those tasks Wednesday morning.
High Definition Emissions
Most attention on the greenhouse gasses leading to global warming has focused on carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum products, and natural gas. But there are others.
Nitrogen trifluoride is many thousands of times more effective at warming the world's atmosphere than CO2. Until recently it was pretty much ignored because of its tiny volume. But it turns out this gas, now widely used in the manufacture of liquid crystal flat-panel TV displays and electronic microcircuits, is collecting in the atmosphere by leaps and bounds.
Another greenhouse culprit, methane, was thought to be under control. It can be broken down by reaction with the hydroxyl free radical, often referred to as the atmosphere's “cleanser.” But recent NASA studies show an alarming increase in methane, growing beyond the ability of the atmosphere to get rid of it. The principal explanation for this surge is melting permafrost in the arctic regions which is releasing vast amounts of methane formerly trapped beneath the surface.
These new developments heighten the urgency of revamping our economy to bring all emissions down–now.
Family Values In Healthcare
Robert Pear began an article in the New York Times,
“Striking new evidence has emerged of a widespread gap in the cost of health insurance, as women pay much more than men of the same age for individual insurance policies providing identical coverage, according to new data from insurance companies and online brokers.”
The companies–which included WellPoint, United Healthcare, and Humana--argued they have a sound reason for charging different premiums: Women ages 19 to 55 tend to cost more than men because they typically use more healthcare, especially in the childbearing years. Sorry, Mom. But the evidence shows women still pay more than men for insurance that does not cover maternity care. The gender penalty ranged from 22 to 49 percent.
Bargaining Roundup Deferred
There were some major contract settlements this past week including Boeing, the Northrop Grumman Shipyard, and United Healthcare Workers West at Catholic Healthcare West. Because of our venting on other matters we don’t have the space left that these deserve–so we’ll hold them over to next week.
Town Hall Meeting On Economic
The Kansas City Labor Party is hosting a town hall format meeting about the economic crisis this Saturday, November 8, Noon, at the North Kansas City Library. I’ll be making some introductory remarks and then we’ll open up for a free-wheeling discussion. If you’re in the area I urge you to drop by. If you need more information, or directions, give me a call at: 816-753-1672.
You can be almost as well informed as I am if you check out our Daily Labor News Digest, updated Monday-Friday by 7AM Central.
That’s all for this week.
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